30 Days as Geek For Hire – Day 7: Fresh Potential

Day 7 started with no news on my UpWork applications. In the meantime, I had been hearing excitable rumblings about a local New Zealand-based start-up called Yudoozy and I decided to check it out.

Yudoozy might be a dumb name, but it has a smart approach. It’s a freelancer marketplace that connects freelancers and potential employers, but that is where the similarity to Elance ends. For starters, it’s only open to New Zealand residents and there are no cut-throat bidding wars for jobs. Employers actively seek out suitable freelancers by perusing the directory of talent and skills available. To make this easier, both freelancers and employers go through a vetting process at Yudoozy. The idea here is to rule out tyre kickers and cowboy coders, levelling the playing field more than other job marketplaces and making sure all participants in the transaction get a fair deal.

Run by ex-staffers of a recruitment firm who felt they could do a better job supporting freelancers, the whole premise of Yudoozy is to align skilled workers with authentic projects at fair rates, with no middleman taking a commission. It’s totally free. On Yudoozy, you set your own hourly rate and the system promotes you to registered, pre-vetted New Zealand employers.

But where Yudoozy gets really fresh is in their scheduling app. Once you register as a freelancer, you can enter your availability for the next 2 months into their weekly scheduler. You can block out weeks as either free, busy or try me – the latter indicating that you may or may not have availability that week but will confirm when contacted.

Yudoozy-schedulerThe system auto generates an email to freelancers each week, reminding them to update their availability in the scheduler. That way, potential employers can see instantly if / when freelancers are available for projects and not waste their time contacting someone who can’t do the job anyway. Smart, no?

Right now, Yudoozy is still in BETA, with few registered employers as yet, but I have high hopes for it. I’ve set up my profile and now just need to wait for the calls to come in. Or not.

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30 Days as Geek For Hire – Day 6: Disconnected via Connects

After my last meander into the murky pool of Elance sweat shop gigs job opportunities, I have been avoiding that site at all costs. But on Facebook today, a friend mentioned that Elance was shutting down and moving to a new platform with higher rates for freelancers.

After some digging, I discovered that the news was bigger than that. Turns out that Elance and ODesk actually merged some months ago and are now operating under a new entity called UpWork. Weirdly, Elance have retained their own brand, while ODesk has re-branded to become UpWork.

I nervously logged in to ODesk for the first time in a week, thinking that all the effort I had put into my profile was likely wasted, but thankfully the system had retained all my profile data and had simply changed the site name to UpWork and replaced the site font with something hideous and unreadable. Seriously guys – I’ve no idea what that font is called, but if I had to name it, I’d suggest Rusty Geek. Or Visually Impaired. But I digress.


I’d been on the site for less than 60 seconds when an annoying window popped up. “Introducing Connects. A new way to apply for jobs”, it said. Then an even more annoying pop-up showed up on my profile: “Connects are now required to apply to jobs”. Aaargh. The bizarre concept of *Connects* had leaked over from Elance to UpWork. Connects are virtual tokens you need to submit in order to apply for a job. The good news is that if you’re invited to apply for a job, you don’t need to use any connects. But being invited to apply for a job is not very common.


Each basic freelancer account is allocated 60 connects, but you need to use between 1 and 5 connects for each job application. So depending on the number of gigs you apply for each month, you may need to upgrade your membership from Freelancer Basic to Freelancer Plus. At USD 10 per month, a Freelancer Plus membership gives you 70 connects, but unused connects roll over each month for future use. Clear as mud, right?

After 15 minutes of trying to wrap my head around that concept, I searched for some suitable jobs and decided to apply for three:

  • Online Digital Marketing Manager
  • Marketing Consultant
  • Digital Content Provider

Time to cross my fingers and wait for responses.

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30 Days as Geek For Hire – Day 5: Job Listing Jeopardy

Today was a red letter day in my quest for freelance work. It was finally time to start applying for actual gigs. So armed with my espresso and a fierce determination, I logged on to my account at Elance.


My morning went from great to Adele pretty damn fast

Now, an individual membership with Elance costs USD10 per month and includes 60 *connects* (whatever the heck they are) and one jobs category. This means that you can’t apply for jobs outside your chosen category, unless you pay more. So I had to start by choosing a category. Given that most of the gigs I’m after relate to search marketing, I chose the Sales and Marketing category and began my search.

According to Elance, there were over 2,600 jobs available in the Sales and Marketing category. Brilliant! The caffeine began to kick in and my hopes were high. I narrowed my search to Search Engine Optimization and hit enter. A promising 433 SEO jobs were available. So far, so good. I clicked on the most recent job listed.

A company in New York was seeking an advanced SEO expert to get their websites (and I quote) “Guaranteed page 1 Google rankings in the USA & Canada for a list of 40 to 50 keywords”. Um, besides the fact that it isn’t actually possible to guarantee final ranking positions (as that is determined by Google’s own algorithm), it’s kind of difficult to pitch my ability to help without knowing:

a) What type of sites these are

b) What industry this is

c) What keywords you are targeting and;

d) How much competition you face.

Hmmm. My hopes were falling faster by the minute. So exactly how much was the company offering to compensate this expert SEO in exchange for achieving such an impossible task?

I checked the hourly rate they had advertised with the job. $3 – $3.30 per hour. Wait. WHAT? I checked it again. Not $300-$330 per hour as is closer to my usual rate. Not even $30-$33 per hour. No. This company wanted to pay a grand total of $3 per hour. Or perhaps even step it up to $3.30 per hour for the right person.

I practically choked on my coffee. Surely this was a typo? But then I noticed that they had 11 proposals already from freelancers willing to take on this gig. What the actual firetruck? But yes – apparently several freelancers based in Bangladesh and the Philippines were more than happy to work for pennies.

Ok, I thought. This is just an anomaly and there are 432 other SEO job opportunities that I can apply for. So I clicked on the next gig in the list. A UK based software development company was seeking a remote SEO specialist for a 2 week project. This sounded promising so I clicked for more detail. Uh Oh. The advertised hourly rate was $10-$15 and they would prefer to hire Ukraine-based freelancers. With site-scraping experience. And the availability to Skype 24/7. Oh FFS.

With my hopes plummeting towards the ground like a skydiver with a ripped parachute, I thought perhaps I should take a different tack. So I ran a search for Google AdWords projects and a list of nearly 200 popped up. An ad agency in Australia was looking for someone to manage 35 AdWords accounts on behalf of their clients, including bid-tweaking, keyword research, video ad creation and 300 page report generation (with the agency logo of course) for a flat fee of $500 per month. Seriously?

Or perhaps this one – a company in Malaysia wanted help to create an AdWords campaign for a new erectile dysfunction product. Oh HELL no. The keyword research alone would make me shudder.

It was about this time that I began playing Adele on repeat and consuming an entire tray of peanut butter cookies. Oh well, perhaps tomorrow I will find a freelance project that has realistic potential to actually cover my rent?

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30 Days as Geek For Hire – Day 4: More Skills Test Torture

odesk-logoAfter yesterday’s fun and games with “skills tests” on Elance, I thought I’d try some tests on oDesk. Surely their tests can’t be as confounding, right?

I started by taking the SEO test and then after locking myself in the cupboard to scream for a while, I came back out and took the AdWords test. The oDesk test questions (provided by ExpertRating) had many of the same hair-pulling, doughnut binge-inducing issues as the Elance questions: ambiguity, outdated references, subjective wording, blatantly incorrect answers.

What made things worse with oDesk was that although the system gives you the opportunity to provide feedback on the questions, you have to submit it within the 15 second time limit allocated to answering each question. So you end up playing this kind of wide-eyed, manic game of whack-a-mole, randomly hitting radio buttons and typing angry comments. Needless to say, I was pretty stabby by the time I completed a few “skills tests” on oDesk.

Having proven my skills in speed typing and passive aggressive commenting, it was now time to apply for some actual jobs. Uh oh.

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30 Days as Geek For Hire – Day 3: Skills Test Torture


I feel your pain, Elisa

So I started the day by creating a profile on oDesk. Friends on Facebook had insisted I would have a much better chance of finding work on oDesk than Elance, as it had more of a tech audience and I wouldn’t be undercut by 12 year old sweat-shop workers in India. Or something along those lines.

The profile creation process was longer for oDesk, mainly because you couldn’t import CV detail from LinkedIn, so you basically had to make a whole lot of stuff up recreate your entire CV from memory.

After uploading some portfolio items on oDesk, it was time to return to Elance in order to take some skills tests. I use the phrase “skills tests” loosely. I would neither class these quizzes as *tests* or involving any *skills* whatsoever. Unless you count the ability to slam your head repeatedly into your keyboard.

I started with the SEO “skills test” (note the air quotes). During the process, I became more and more frustrated. The majority of SEO questions were about the robots.txt file, which I found strange. Others were super outdated, often because recent algorithm changes made the question redundant or they referred to product names/services that no longer exist  e.g. Google Places. The more questions I took, the more ambiguous or redundant the questions became, meaning I had to guess what the author meant rather than rely on my 18 years of solid SEO knowledge. Finally, I got tired of slamming my head into the keyboard there were no more questions in the pool so I had no chance of improving my score. Wonderful.

elance-sem-skills-test-q2Next up was the AdWords “skills test”. This had similar issues to the SEO test, with ambiguous or simply outdated questions. Take for example the question *Can you use the same keywords in different AdGroups? Yes or No?*. Although I guessed the answer correctly as *yes*, the question needs to be re-worded. Any good advertiser knows that although it IS possible, you should never use the same keywords in multiple AdGroups, because Google won’t know which ad you meant to show and will just pick the one with the highest AdRank. This means you are effectively competing with yourself and driving up the CPC.

So for clarity, the question should ask “Is it possible” rather than “Can you”. (Reading that last paragraph back, I sound like a complete wanker, but other wankers digital marketing folk will no doubt be nodding their heads ).

The Google Analytics test was mostly straight-forward, but there was a focus on only one or two aspects of Analytics. Which seems kind of ridiculous when you consider that Avinash Kaushik’s book on Web Analytics is 500 pages long and weighs a kilo.

elance-sem-skills-test-q4After that, I took the Bing Ads test. Nearly half of the questions were about JavaScript programming instead of Bing Ads. Which is perfectly understandable, if you’re insane.

Judging by some of the feedback comments, I wasn’t the only person who found this frustrating. Last of all, I took the Search Engine Marketing skills test. Again, many of the questions (or answers) were either irrelevant, redundant or outdated. Quite a few were subjective or written in a way that was too ambiguous.

I left quite a lot of feedback on the questions, but of course this ate into the time I took answering each test, which lowered my overall score and increased my stabbiness and doughnut intake. I think this is a bug inherent in the Elance system, but something that could be easily improved. Perhaps they should find a way to allow test-takers to tag a problem question and provide feedback at the end, after test time has been recorded. Or perhaps send each applicant a box of doughnuts by way of apology?

As you can see by the attached screen-shots, I wasn’t the only one unhappy with the test quality. I particularly enjoyed Elisa’s comment “Are you proud to write stupid questions?”.

Having such a lot of negative feedback clearly viewable by test-takers reflects badly on Elance. I’m not sure how often the feedback is reviewed, but to the public, it looks as though the feedback is being ignored completely.

I wonder if oDesk will have the same issues? I’d better buy more doughnuts.

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